Yep children's fantasy triology snapped up

NEW YORK — Adding another potential franchise to its bulging development slate of children’s fantasy projects, Miramax has acquired film rights to prolific Chinese-American kid-lit author Laurence Yep’s trilogy “The Tiger’s Apprentice.”

Jane Startz is attached to produce the project.

Deal was concluded late Monday, with Miramax beating out chief rival Nickelodeon in negotiations with New York lit agency Curtis Brown Ltd. First installment of the trilogy is being published today by Harper Collins.

A seasoned hand with family films, Startz produced “The Mighty” for Miramax and “Tuck Everlasting” for Disney. Also for Miramax, Startz recently wrapped shooting in Ireland on “Ella Enchanted,” adapted from Gail Carson Levine’s novel and starring Anne Hathaway (“The Princess Diaries”).

Yep’s trilogy focuses on a Chinese-American boy raised in San Francisco by his grandmother, whom he discovers is the guardian of a magical phoenix egg. Given that monumental destruction could ensue if the egg falls into the wrong hands, the boy must learn ancient Chinese magic in order to carry on his grandmother’s role, undergoing training with a tiger capable of assuming human form.

“I have been a fan of the author Laurence Yep for a very long time and I think this is one of those really special children’s fantasies that’s got heart and scope and is very cinematic,” said Startz, who brought the property to Miramax. “It’s multicultural and it’s something that we haven’t seen before so this is a great follow-up project for us after ‘Ella Enchanted.’ “

A two-time Newbery Honor author, Yep’s numerous young-adult books include “Dragonwings,” “Dragon’s Gate,” “The Golden Mountain” series and “Sweetwater.”

Ed Wintle, who brokered the deal for the film division of Curtis Brown, said Miramax has secured rights to “The Tiger’s Apprentice,” second installment “Tiger’s Blood” and the untitled third book, which is still in outline stage. The company also has locked in prices on any future books written by Yep in the series.

Julie Goldstein, Miramax executive VP of development and European production, and Michelle Raimo, VP of production and development, will oversee the project for the studio.

“Miramax is really excited and dedicated about making family films and this is another great potential franchise for the company,” Goldstein told Daily Variety. “This is a trilogy of books that’s really inventive and imaginative.”

While no talent has been attached, Miramax is readying crime caper fantasy “Artemis Foul” based on Eoin Colfer’s best-selling kids’ novel to go into production later this year.

The company also is developing Michael Chabon’s children’s epic “Summerland” and its sequels, and Brit author Jonathan Stroud’s forthcoming series about an ancient jinni and a young magician, the Bartimaeus Trilogy, which was picked up in a $3 million publishing and film rights deal.

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